Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Restaurants help feed job growth: how the leisure and hospitality industry fared after the recent employment downturn

By John Coughlan

The most recent employment downturn was historic in many ways, but most notably, in the substantial number of jobs lost.1  Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Statistics (CES)2 survey show that total nonfarm3 employment fell by 8.7 million jobs between the employment peak in January 2008 and the employment trough in February 2010. In percentage terms, this was the largest job loss since the 1940s.4 Total nonfarm payroll employment did not make a full recovery until May 2014, a full 51 months after its employment low. During this recovery period, the leisure and hospitality industry gained more than 1.6 million jobs, accounting for almost 1 out of every 5 nonfarm jobs added during the recovery. (See chart 1.) Although other industries had similar or larger job gains, the leisure and hospitality industry is interesting because so many of the jobs were created in very few component industries. This Beyond the Numbers article examines recent trends in the leisure and hospitality industry and analyzes the concentrated distribution of job gains.

Chart 1
Distribution of total nonfarm employment gains, February 2010–May 2014,

View Chart Data

Distribution of total nonfarm employment gains, February 2010–May 2014, seasonally adjusted
IndustriesJob GainsPercent

Professional and business services

2,59929%

Leisure and hospitality

1,67019%

Education and health services

1,67119%

All other industries

2,89733%

Trends in recent employment recoveries

The leisure and hospitality industry tends to follow the employment cycles of total nonfarm employment closely. During the most recent employment downturn, employment in the leisure and hospitality industry peaked in December 2007, 1 month before total nonfarm employment peaked, and it reached its most recent trough in January 2010, also 1 month before total nonfarm. 

Before the most recent recession, there was an employment downturn between July 2001 and June 2002.  The leisure and hospitality industry employment recoveries in 2002 and 2010 differ in several ways. For many industries, the 2001 employment downturn was shorter than the 2007 downturn and the accompanying job losses were less severe. The leisure and hospitality industry was no exception. It took leisure and hospitality 6 months to recover the 205,000 jobs it lost between its July 2001 peak and its June 2002 trough—a recovery rate of about 17 percent per month. Overall, it took half as long to recover the jobs as it did to lose them. In contrast, it took the leisure and hospitality industry 24 months to recover the 619,000 jobs it lost from the December 2007 peak to the January 2010 trough—a recovery rate of about 4 percent per month. This means that it took about the same amount of time to recover the jobs as it did to lose them. (See chart 2.)

Chart 2
Leisure and hospitality employment, indexed to 2001 and 2007 employment peaks, seasonally adjusted

View Chart Data

Leisure and hospitality employment, indexed to 2001 and 2007 employment peaks, seasonally adjusted
Number of months after employment peak2001 Recession2007 RecessionIndexed data
DatesLevels, in thousandsDatesLevels, in thousands20012007

-6

Jan 200111,977Jun 200713,41398.9098.99

-5

Feb 200111,997Jul 200713,41799.0799.02

-4

Mar 200112,000Aug 200713,41999.0999.03

-3

Apr 200112,040Sep 200713,46199.4299.34

-2

May 200112,068Oct 200713,49999.6599.62

-1

Jun 200112,076Nov 200713,53599.7299.89

0

Jul 200112,110Dec 200713,550100.00100.00

1

Aug 200112,093Jan 200813,54299.8699.94

2

Sep 200112,061Feb 200813,54399.6099.95

3

Oct 200112,015Mar 200813,53199.2299.86

4

Nov 200111,985Apr 200813,51198.9799.71

5

Dec 200111,967May 200813,49898.8299.62

6

Jan 200212,006Jun 200813,48299.1499.50

7

Feb 200211,962Jul 200813,46398.7899.36

8

Mar 200211,965Aug 200813,43198.8099.12

9

Apr 200211,928Sep 200813,37998.5098.74

10

May 200211,936Oct 200813,35298.5698.54

11

Jun 200211,905Nov 200813,30098.3198.15

12

Jul 200211,912Dec 200813,25698.3697.83

13

Aug 200211,936Jan 200913,22298.5697.58

14

Sep 200211,991Feb 200913,19399.0297.37

15

Oct 200212,070Mar 200913,12799.6796.88

16

Nov 200212,109Apr 200913,05699.9996.35

17

Dec 200212,112May 200913,106100.0296.72

18

Jan 200312,173Jun 200913,076100.5296.50

19

Feb 200312,130Jul 200913,078100.1796.52

20

Mar 200312,109Aug 200913,04699.9996.28

21

Apr 200312,085Sep 200913,05499.7996.34

22

May 200312,092Oct 200912,99599.8595.90

23

Jun 200312,121Nov 200912,986100.0995.84

24

Jul 200312,143Dec 200912,944100.2795.53

25

Aug 200312,177Jan 201012,931100.5595.43

26

Sep 200312,208Feb 201012,933100.8195.45

27

Oct 200312,259Mar 201012,947101.2395.55

28

Nov 200312,284Apr 201012,981101.4495.80

29

Dec 200312,320May 201013,007101.7395.99

30

Jan 200412,346Jun 201013,031101.9596.17

31

Feb 200412,372Jul 201013,053102.1696.33

32

Mar 200412,425Aug 201013,087102.6096.58

33

Apr 200412,435Sep 201013,132102.6896.92

34

May 200412,481Oct 201013,125103.0696.86

35

Jun 200412,495Nov 201013,130103.1896.90

36

Jul 200412,495Dec 201013,159103.1897.11

37

Aug 200412,485Jan 201113,149103.1097.04

38

Sep 200412,550Feb 201113,196103.6397.39

39

Oct 200412,582Mar 201113,247103.9097.76

40

Nov 200412,606Apr 201113,286104.1098.05

41

Dec 200412,630May 201113,290104.2998.08

42

Jan 200512,665Jun 201113,338104.5898.44

43

Feb 200512,690Jul 201113,372104.7998.69

44

Mar 200512,718Aug 201113,396105.0298.86

45

Apr 200512,802Sep 201113,416105.7199.01

46

May 200512,797Oct 201113,463105.6799.36

47

Jun 200512,837Nov 201113,514106.0099.73

48

Jul 200512,867Dec 201113,542106.2599.94

49

Aug 200512,891Jan 201213,594106.45100.32

50

Sep 200512,862Feb 201213,638106.21100.65

51

Oct 200512,840Mar 201213,703106.03101.13

52

Nov 200512,884Apr 201213,700106.39101.11

53

Dec 200512,905May 201213,705106.56101.14

54

Jan 200612,945Jun 201213,711106.90101.19

55

Feb 200612,980Jul 201213,739107.18101.39

56

Mar 200613,034Aug 201213,810107.63101.92

57

Apr 200613,074Sep 201213,868107.96102.35

58

May 200613,052Oct 201213,889107.78102.50

59

Jun 200613,061Nov 201213,921107.85102.74

60

Jul 200613,130Dec 201213,981108.42103.18

 

By comparison, the distribution of jobs lost and recovered during and after the 2001 downturn was spread out among different industries. During the 2001 downturn, food services and drinking places accounted for 13 percent of the jobs lost in leisure and hospitality, but 52 percent of the jobs recovered. The remaining components of leisure and hospitality accounted for the majority of jobs lost, but less than half of the jobs recovered. During the 2007 downturn, however, food services and drinking places accounted for the majority of activity on both sides, with 60 percent of the jobs lost and 80 percent of the jobs recovered. (See chart 3.)

Chart 3
Distribution of employment loss and recovery in leisure and hospitality by detailed industry, 2001 and 2007 employment downturns, seasonally adjusted, in percent

View Chart Data

 

Distribution of employment loss and recovery in leisure and hospitality by detailed industry, 2001 and 2007 employment downturns, seasonally adjusted, in percent
 LossRecovery

Industry

2001200720012007

Performing arts and spectator sports

-21%-5%13%2%

Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions

-1%-1%0%1%

Amusements, gambling, and recreation

-20%-12%20%7%

Accommodation

-46%-22%15%10%

Food services and drinking places

-13%-60%52%80%

Although retail sales data at food services and drinking places collected by the U.S. Census Bureau are volatile, they track closely with changes in employment.5 On an inflation-adjusted basis, retail sales at food services and drinking places declined briefly in 2001 but recovered very quickly, similar to the employment trends during the same period.6 For the most recent recession, the sales data also show a period of decline from December 2007 through January 2010, followed by a strong period of recovery—again coinciding with trends in employment. (See chart 4.)

Chart 4
Food service and drinking places employment and food sales, January 2000–May 2014, seasonally adjusted

View Chart Data

Food service and drinking places employment and food sales, January 2000–May 2014, seasonally adjusted
dateFood SalesCPIInflation-adjusted food salesFood services and drinking places employment

Jan-00

24608169.314535.14471352638115.6

Feb-00

2488717014639.41176470598125.8

Mar-00

2536717114834.50292397668164.6

Apr-00

25215170.914754.2422469288170.4

May-00

25193171.214715.53738317768162.5

Jun-00

25262172.214670.15098722428174.6

Jul-00

25454172.714738.85350318478188.4

Aug-00

25342172.714674.00115807768218.3

Sep-00

25711173.614810.48387096778241.4

Oct-00

25706173.914782.05865439918174.8

Nov-00

25698174.214752.0091848458243.4

Dec-00

25133174.614394.61626575038283.2

Jan-01

26180175.614908.88382687938283

Feb-01

2606917614811.93181818188306.2

Mar-01

26122176.114833.61726291888304.6

Apr-01

26045176.414764.73922902498327.7

May-01

26278177.314821.20699379588354

Jun-01

26379177.714844.68204839628374.7

Jul-01

26507177.414941.93912063138402.8

Aug-01

26853177.415136.97857948148393.9

Sep-01

26239178.114732.73441886588387.7

Oct-01

26541177.614944.25675675688377.8

Nov-01

26597177.514984.22535211278383.4

Dec-01

27156177.415307.77903043978382.5

Jan-02

27201177.715307.25942599898421.4

Feb-02

2738417815384.26966292138385.7

Mar-02

27203178.515239.77591036418387.2

Apr-02

27500179.315337.42331288348375.9

May-02

27378179.515252.36768802238389.4

Jun-02

27586179.615359.68819599118376.8

Jul-02

2761618015342.22222222228420.3

Aug-02

27607180.515294.73684210538433.1

Sep-02

27784180.815367.25663716818439

Oct-02

27623181.215244.48123620318480.1

Nov-02

27916181.515380.71625344358492.6

Dec-02

28017181.815410.89108910898484.2

Jan-03

28018182.615343.92113910198530.7

Feb-03

27979183.615239.10675381268511.4

Mar-03

28505183.915500.27188689518514.3

Apr-03

28403183.215503.82096069878532.1

May-03

29048182.915881.90267905968535.4

Jun-03

29230183.115963.95412342988551.1

Jul-03

29395183.716001.63309744158557

Aug-03

29844184.516175.60975609768590.2

Sep-03

29503185.115938.95191788228637.1

Oct-03

30045184.916249.32395889678679.2

Nov-03

30229185163408691.1

Dec-03

29795185.516061.99460916448712.5

Jan-04

30341186.316286.09769189488737.5

Feb-04

30461186.716315.47937868248753

Mar-04

30703187.116409.94120791028794.5

Apr-04

30560187.416307.3639274288816.5

May-04

30712188.216318.80977683328840.5

Jun-04

30825188.916318.15775542628851.7

Jul-04

31191189.116494.44738233748857.4

Aug-04

31036189.216403.80549682888850.9

Sep-04

31430189.816559.53635405698897.6

Oct-04

31625190.816574.94758909858929.8

Nov-04

31659191.716514.86697965578947.8

Dec-04

32111191.716750.65206051128970.2

Jan-05

32000191.616701.46137787068998.7

Feb-05

32469192.416875.77962577969027.2

Mar-05

32115193.116631.27912998459051.8

Apr-05

32952193.717011.87403200839101.4

May-05

32746193.616914.25619834719088.7

Jun-05

33041193.717057.82137325769113

Jul-05

33056194.916960.49256028739135.4

Aug-05

33229196.116944.92605813369144.9

Sep-05

33316198.816758.55130784719128.8

Oct-05

33618199.116884.9824208949118.3

Nov-05

33986198.117155.98182735999152.8

Dec-05

33998198.117162.03937405359182.6

Jan-06

34983199.317552.93527345719225.5

Feb-06

34535199.417319.45837512549253.6

Mar-06

34830199.717441.16174261399304.4

Apr-06

34793200.717335.82461385159327.3

May-06

34877201.317325.88176850479309.8

Jun-06

34729201.817209.61347869189317.6

Jul-06

34802202.917152.29176934459355.8

Aug-06

35367203.817353.77821393529374

Sep-06

35689202.817598.12623274169371.5

Oct-06

35784201.917723.62555720659399.7

Nov-06

3588420217764.35643564369451.8

Dec-06

37062203.118248.15361890699478.1

Jan-07

36356203.43717870.88877637799517.3

Feb-07

36053204.22617653.48192688499532.6

Mar-07

36614205.28817835.43119909599535.6

Apr-07

36591205.90417770.90294506189552

May-07

36732206.75517765.95487412649572.3

Jun-07

37042207.23417874.48005636149584.2

Jul-07

37272207.60317953.4977818249593.4

Aug-07

37189207.66717907.99693740469602.1

Sep-07

37427208.54717946.5540142039620.4

Oct-07

37759209.1918050.09799703629636.9

Nov-07

37609210.83417838.20446417569658.2

Dec-07

38412211.44518166.42625741929673

Jan-08

37823212.17417826.40662852199662

Feb-08

37252212.68717514.93979415769658.8

Mar-08

37338213.44817492.78512799379647.9

Apr-08

37845213.94217689.37375550389632.4

May-08

38087215.20817697.76216497539627.8

Jun-08

38135217.46317536.31652281089622.2

Jul-08

38259219.01617468.58676991649628.3

Aug-08

38225218.6917479.0799762229604.9

Sep-08

38326218.87717510.2911680999572.7

Oct-08

38129216.99517571.37261227229547.2

Nov-08

38063213.15317857.1261019089514.2

Dec-08

38008211.39817979.35647451739484.2

Jan-09

38176211.93318013.24003340689462.3

Feb-09

37910212.70517822.8062339869448.1

Mar-09

37455212.49517626.29708934339419.4

Apr-09

37672212.70917710.58112256659387.7

May-09

37682213.02217689.25275323689425.9

Jun-09

37636214.7917522.23101634159433.3

Jul-09

37727214.72617569.83318275389431

Aug-09

37585215.44517445.28766042389398

Sep-09

37458215.86117352.83353639619367.6

Oct-09

37442216.50917293.50742925249344

Nov-09

37771217.23417387.24140788279333.5

Dec-09

37718217.34717353.81670784519304.5

Jan-10

37624217.46617301.09534363999299.3

Feb-10

38269217.25117615.10879121389295

Mar-10

38382217.30517662.73210464559312.7

Apr-10

38582217.37617748.96952745479325.2

May-10

38649217.29917786.09197465249341.7

Jun-10

38814217.28517863.17509262039350

Jul-10

38966217.67717900.8347230079357

Aug-10

39360218.01218054.05207052829380.1

Sep-10

39376218.28118039.13304410379429.1

Oct-10

39445219.02418009.4418876479452.4

Nov-10

39589219.54418032.37619793759458.8

Dec-10

39535220.43717934.82945240599479.2

Jan-11

39558221.08217892.90851358329488.5

Feb-11

40333221.81618183.08868611829514.9

Mar-11

40567222.95518195.15148796849549.5

Apr-11

40391224.05618027.18963116369577.9

May-11

40969224.91818215.0828301879595

Jun-11

41485224.9918438.59727098989613.5

Jul-11

41377225.55318344.69060486899627.3

Aug-11

41606226.14918397.60511874919654.6

Sep-11

41999226.67418528.37114093379682.7

Oct-11

42251226.76118632.39269539299720.2

Nov-11

42204227.13618580.93829247689771

Dec-11

42067227.09318524.12888111929793.8

Jan-12

42916227.66618850.42123110179831.6

Feb-12

43124228.13818902.59404395589863.3

Mar-12

43159228.73218868.8071629689909.6

Apr-12

43437229.18418952.8937447649913.2

May-12

43485228.88418998.70676849419921.9

Jun-12

43551228.82519032.44837758119929.1

Jul-12

43669228.77919087.85334318279952

Aug-12

43734229.95219018.751739493510003

Sep-12

44038231.08619056.97445972510059.5

Oct-12

43879231.65218941.774731062110075.5

Nov-12

44334231.1919176.434966910310097.3

Dec-12

44772231.09919373.515246712410146.6

Jan-13

44890231.32119405.933745747310180.8

Feb-13

44554232.59919154.854492065710216.7

Mar-13

44650232.07519239.469998922810235.3

Apr-13

44900231.70719377.921253997510267.1

May-13

44657232.12419238.424290465410310.1

Jun-13

44297232.8619023.01812247710346.6

Jul-13

44518233.25219085.795620187610382.1

Aug-13

44638233.43319122.403430534710406.3

Sep-13

44939233.74319225.816388084310419.1

Oct-13

45680233.78219539.571053374510453.4

Nov-13

46393234.03319823.272786316510475.2

Dec-13

45937234.59419581.489722669810487.1

Jan-14

45540234.93319384.249977653210503.6

Feb-14

45922235.16919527.233606470210535.7

Mar-14

46708235.6419821.762009845510565.8

Apr-14

46583236.25419717.33811914310594.3

May-14

46488237.08319608.322823652510627.6

Restaurant recovery after recent downturn

Between February 2010 and May 2014, the largest industry in leisure and hospitality, food services and drinking places, added 1.3 million jobs, accounting for 80 percent of leisure and hospitality jobs added over this time. Food services and drinking places contains three major components: special food services, drinking places (alcoholic beverages), and restaurants and other eating places. Virtually all of the job gains in food services and drinking places occurred in restaurants and other eating places, the largest component of the industry. The employment gains in restaurants and other eating places were so strong they accounted for 74 percent of all the jobs gained in leisure and hospitality and 14 percent of all the jobs gained in total nonfarm employment as of May 2014. (See chart 5.) Job losses in restaurants and other eating places accounted for 53 percent of all the job losses within leisure and hospitality and 4 percent of the jobs lost in total nonfarm during the most recent downturn.

Chart 5
Distribution of leisure and hospitality employment gains, February 2010–May 2014, seasonally adjusted, in thousands

View Chart Data

Distribution of leisure and hospitality employment gains, February 2010–May 2014, seasonally adjusted, in thousands
industryRecovery ChangePercent of LH

Leisure and hospitality

1,670100%

Restaurants and other eating places

1,24374%

All other leisure and hospitality

42726%

Restaurants and other eating places have gained 1.2 million jobs since the nonfarm employment trough in February 2010. Employment changed little in cafeterias, grill buffets and buffets, and snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars over the period.  (See chart 6.) The employment gains were about evenly split between the two largest components of restaurants and other eating places: full-service restaurants (+589,000) and limited-service restaurants (+566,000). Full-service restaurants are defined as establishments that provide food service to patrons who order and are served while seated and pay after eating.7 Limited-service restaurants are defined as establishments that provide food service to patrons who generally order or select items and pay before eating.8

Chart 6
Employment change in restaurants and other eating places, Feb 2010–May 2014,  by detailed industry, seasonally adjusted, in thousands

View Chart Data

Employment change in restaurants and other eating places, Feb 2010–May 2014, by detailed industry, seasonally adjusted, in thousands
IndustryRecovery Change

Restaurants and other eating places

1,243
 

Full-service restaurants

589

Limited-service restaurants

566

Cafeterias, grill buffets, and buffets

-8

Snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars

102

Full- and limited-service restaurants regularly account for a large share of the monthly employment changes in leisure and hospitality. Monthly changes in full- and limited-service restaurants were larger in absolute terms than the remaining components of leisure and hospitality in 35 out of the last 51 months (69 percent of the time). (See chart 7.)

Chart 7

View Chart Data

Employment in select leisure and hospitality industries, over-the-month change, January 2010–May 2014, seasonally adjusted, in thousands
industries Jan 2010 Feb 2010 Mar 2010 Apr 2010 May 2010 Jun 2010 Jul 2010 Aug 2010 Sep 2010 Oct 2010 Nov 2010 Dec 2010 Jan 2011 Feb 2011 Mar 2011 Apr 2011 May 2011 Jun 2011 Jul 2011 Aug 2011 Sep 2011 Oct 2011 Nov 2011 Dec 2011 Jan 2012 Feb 2012 Mar 2012 Apr 2012 May 2012 Jun 2012 Jul 2012 Aug 2012 Sep 2012 Oct 2012 Nov 2012 Dec 2012 Jan 2013 Feb 2013 Mar 2013 Apr 2013 May 2013 Jun 2013 Jul 2013 Aug 2013 Sep 2013 Oct 2013 Nov 2013 Dec 2013 Jan 2014 Feb 2014 Mar 2014 Apr 2014 May 2014

Full and limited service restaurants

-1.6 -3.3 15.5 10.8 16.2 3.9 13 17.4 30.8 12.4 7.8 18 17.6 18.3 29.9 28.4 22.1 13.9 7.7 25.4 18.8 29.4 40 23.5 38.2 18.2 45.5 12.1 0.4 20.3 19.2 23.1 46.8 22.9 17.3 41.8 31 22.2 15.2 32.2 49.6 36.2 34.2 20.2 4.5 26.9 25.7 4.1 22.1 20.6 23.2 32.1 28.4

All other leisure and hospitality

-11.4 5.3 -1.5 23.2 9.8 20.1 9 16.6 14.2 -19.4 -2.8 11 -27.6 28.7 21.1 10.6 -18.1 34.1 26.3 -1.4 1.2 17.6 11 4.5 13.8 25.8 19.5 -15.1 4.6 -14.3 8.8 47.9 11.2 -1.9 14.7 18.2 16 27.8 18.8 0.8 3.4 14.8 -11.2 13.8 4.5 38.1 11.3 13.9 2.9 14.4 7.8 -0.1 16.6

 

An economy hungry for jobs

Total nonfarm employment has fully recovered from the most recent employment downturn. Despite making up only 8 percent of total nonfarm employment, the food services and drinking places industry has accounted for almost 1 out of every 6 nonfarm jobs added during the recovery. With restaurants leading the job gains within food services and drinking places, this industry is feeding more than its share of job growth during a recovery hungry for jobs.

This Beyond the Numbers summary was prepared by John Coughlan, former economist in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Email: cesinfo@bls.gov. Telephone: (202) 691-6555.

Information in this article will be made available to sensory-impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200. Federal Relay Service: 1-800-877-8339. This article is in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission.

Notes

1 An employment downturn is defined as the period after an employment series has peaked until the series eventually reaches an employment trough. Employment peaks and troughs do not perfectly coincide with business cycle expansions and contractions determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

2 The Current Employment Statistics (CES) program is a monthly survey of about 145,000 businesses and government agencies, representing approximately 557,000 individual worksites. For more information on the program’s concepts and methodology, see “Technical notes to establishment survey data,” https://www.bls.gov/ces/#technical. To access CES data, see “Current Employment Statistics-CES (national),” https://www.bls.gov/ces. The CES data used in this article are seasonally adjusted unless otherwise noted.

3 Total nonfarm employment estimates from the Current Employment Statistics division cover payroll employment in all nonagricultural industries, including government.

4 Approximately 4.3 million total nonfarm jobs were lost between the November 1943 peak and September 1945 trough (10.1 percent).

5 Census retail sales data are available here: https://www.census.gov/retail/marts/www/timeseries.html.

6 Retail sales data were deflated with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for All Urban Consumers. More information on the CPI is available at https://www.bls.gov/cpi/.

7 The comprehensive North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) definition of full-service restaurants (722511) is available here:

https://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/sssd/naics/naicsrch?code=722511&search=2012%20NAICS%20Search.

8 The comprehensive North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) definition of limited-service restaurants (722513) is available here:

https://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/sssd/naics/naicsrch?code=722513&search=2012%20NAICS%20Search.

Other BLS Program Surveys

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Publish Date: Monday, July 28, 2014

Suggested citation:

John Coughlan ,   “Restaurants help feed job growth: how the leisure and hospitality industry fared after the recent employment downturn,” Beyond the Numbers, vol. 3, no. 16 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jul 2014), https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-3/restaurants-help-feed-job-growth.htm (visited October 20, 2021).

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